Lili Novy

(1885 – 1958)
poet and translator

LILl NOVY (1885 -1958) was the daughter of Guido Haumeder, an Austrian nobleman, and Ludovika Ahačič, who was born to a rich Slovenian bourgeois family. When her family moved from Graz to Ljubljana, she received private schooling in modern and classical languages. Already before she married a Czech officer she wrote poetry in German and French (the manuscript of her poems Lilys Gedichte, 1929, has been preserved) and published in the magazine Westermanns Monatshefte. In the early 1930s she made contact with Slovenian men of letters and translated Župančič, Murn, Kette, Cankar and Gradnik (Blätter aus der slowenischen Lyrik), Prešeren (Gedichte), and Yugoslav women poets into German (Jugoslawische Frauenlyrik, 1933). She published her first Slovenian poem, a sonnet in response to Božo Vodušek’s sonnet that he had dedicated to her, in the publication Hramovi zapiski, and later wrote for magazines Modra ptica and Sodobnost. Her friend Josip Vidmar helped her edit her first collection of poems Temna vrata (Dark Door, 1941), which was accompanied with woodcuts by Božidar Jakac. She was strongly enrooted in Ljubljana’s literary life, writing in cafés on torn paper bags, and made a living by running a dairy in Ljubljana’s Stari trg square. It wasn’t until after World War II that she was employed as a language editor at the publishing house Državna založba Slovenije. Her second collection Oboki (Arches, 1958), with poems from her manuscripts and those published in the magazine Naša sodobnost, was also edited by Vidmar, whereas she took charge of the publication of her children’s poems and plays. She wrote in classical poetic forms; her lyric poetry was motif-rich and modern in its subject matter, erotic, poetical and existential, always outside the contemporary literary mainstream, but close to European classical poetry and modernism.

(Written by: Dr. Irena Novak Popov, source: Antologija slovenskih pesnic, Ljubljana 2004-2007.)

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